Rev. John Mills, Pastor Emeritus at Westchester UMC, played an influential and pivotal role in helping our congregation become a Reconciling Congregation. Rev. Mills wrote one of the first articles on why Westchester UMC should be a part of the reconciling movement.
John’s Pen . . .
What I have to say at this time is on behalf of the Reconciling Task Force. This will also be my column in the next edition of the Messenger. The task force has presented three workshops, and a funny thing happened on the way to them. The only persons attending were the ones in favor of our church taking this step. It was an exercise in “preaching to the choir.” We all know that the eventual vote will not be unanimous, so I am here to share with you why I think that we must take this step and go on record ̶ “go public” if you will ̶ as being a congregation that welcomes all persons, no matter what.
Here are some of the reasons I feel that we must take this step. First, this is an issue that will not go away. Time is on the side of openness to persons of same-sex preference in their relationships. The best information from the medical community tells us that being gay or lesbian is not a matter of choice ̶ some people are that way and some people are not. And to quote the Bible in opposition is to deny the knowledge we possess today that was not available when the Bible was written.
Second, no one is attempting to change anyone’s views or perspectives in this matter. It is not anyone’s intent to say that same-sex relationships are good or bad, right or wrong ̶ but that’s just the way it is. It is our intent to say that such relationships exist and that they will continue, and that those persons are children of God and they are deserving of being recognized and treated as such. No one is seeking to recruit more gays and lesbians into this congregation, but when they do come, naturally and of their own accord, they should know coming in that they are welcome, in every way. There is nothing to fear, and much to gain from their presence. What is to be feared is behavior that degrades another person ̶ unlimited promiscuity, sexual predation, and infidelity ̶ these patterns of behavior are destructive, no matter who practices them. Committed same-sex relationships are no threat to established family values.
And that leads to my third point. I have known many gay men and a few lesbian women. The best man at the wedding for Mary and me was gay, and his partner was one of the ushers. This man, David, was also my mentor in knowledge and appreciation of West Highland White Terriers, the dogs we fondly refer to as “Westies.” He made it possible for my daughter to compete in dog shows by re-registering one of his dogs, making my daughter the co-owner. For several years, right up to his death, he was a trusted friend and a regular part of our social life. Instinctively we knew that David and his partner were in a gay relationship, and instinctively knew that we knew. And it was not an issue ̶ we were persons with mutual interest in a variety of other ways and we enjoyed the relationship. Had I recoiled from the knowledge that he was gay, my life would have been much the poorer in many ways. In addition to this one case, I have come to realize that in so many areas of art and music and literature, much of the creative work that has inspired, informed, and delighted me has come from gay sources.
One final point before I conclude. I think that by far most people desire to have a special and committed relationship with one they can call their mate or spouse, a relationship about which they can be completely open, one in which they express their love in a physical way. I remember how deeply I desired such a relationship when I was single before meeting Mary. But I always knew that if I met the right one ̶ and was Mary ever the right one ̶ such a relationship was open and available to me. The same option should be available to all persons regardless of their sexual orientation. It needs to be repeated: the medical and psychiatric community tells us that here choice is not an option. Until it is clearly demonstrated to be different, we need to take their word for it and act in accordance with that information.
I am an old man. I have seen such changes in my lifetime that I would not have imagined possible. During my childhood in East Texas, racial segregation was an accepted way of life, blatantly and cruelly practiced. Even though racism is still a concern, the general and accepted attitude is “How could we have been so primitive and inhuman?” I am confident that few are the years before us when we will say of this issue, “What’s the big deal?”
Blessings on you all. I love all of you, and I love this church.